YS Sharmila paints a classic picture of a beauty with a brain. The younger child of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a 2009 chopper crash, and the sister of YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy, Sharmila is not contesting the upcoming elections but is a star campaigner for the party.
The 48-year-old, who is married to evangelist M Anil Kumar, was destined to enter politics. Rajasekhara's untimely death had plunged the family and Andhra Pradesh into a political turmoil. The arrest of Jaganmohan in May 2012 further pushed the party to the edge. It was at this time that the family's women — matriarch Vijayalakshmi, Sharmila and Jagan's wife Bharati — held the fort. While Bharati looked after the family business and Vijayalakshmi, better known as Vijayamma, took the charge of the Andhra assembly, Sharmila became the party's public face.
"I am Jagan's arrow," she claimed at the time, and added that she would remain in public life until her brother is released from prison.
The fiery politician dared to take on veteran and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu. If Naidu walked for 2,875 km as part of his "Vastunna meekosam (coming for you) padayatra from October 2012 -April 2013, Sharmila commenced her walk almost simultaneously and walked for 3,112 km despite a leg injury and a month's hospitalization for a right knee ligament. At the time she launched the padayatra though, senior YSRC leaders were skeptical about the impact in the face of Chandrababu's challenge. But her determination and guts won the day.
Sharmila also campaigned for YSR Congress candidate Konda Surekha for the by-elections in Parkal in Warangal; the party won a considerable number of seats. She sent the message to the Congress that whether Jagan is in jail or outside, YSR Congress will not vanish, said Vasireddy Padma, a spokesman of the YSRC after the poll outcome.
From then on, there was no turning back. Sharmila positioned herself as a successful and credible successor to elder brother Jagan. Her public meetings are well-attended as admirers of YSR come to listen to "the voice of YSR". Sharmila's mannerism and appearance also resemble that of her father's.
"Can beautiful women with brains not become successful politicians?" she quipped in a recent TV interview.
After Jagan's release in September 2013, Sharmia vanished into a cocoon and away from politics but surfaced at a party conclave two months ago. Since the general election was announced, Sharmila has once again returned to the public life; the Triumvirate — Jagan, Vijayamma and Sharmila — are these days busy criss-crossing the 13 Seemandhra districts and bitterly attacking Chandrababu and former Andhra chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy for their double standards on keeping the state united against bifurcation.